Forwarded message which contains a good summary of the issues and
problems involved in "black box voting"
From: "Judy" <jbski@...
Date: Mon Sep 29, 2003 5:19 pm
Subject: Election Reform Meet-Up Wed, Oct 8, 2003 at 7:00pm
I am writing to invite you to attend the next Election Reform Meet-Up
which is scheduled for Wednesday, October 8, 2003 at 7:00pm. Meet-
Up's are a relatively new vehicle for people with common interests to
come together in person. You can learn more about Meet-Up's at
The agenda for this month's Election Reform Meet-Up is Black Box
Voting. In case you are not familiar with Black Box Voting, here is a
beginner's summary, written by Bev Harris, who has been a driving
force in the investigation into the problems with electronic voting
machines and political affiliations of owners of the companies who
make them. Her website is http://www.blackboxvoting.com
. She has
broken the issue into 4 categories, Secrecy, Ownership, Disabling the
Safeguards and Secret Certification and Testing.
1. Secrecy: What has always been a transparent process, subjected to
many eyes and belonging to all of us, has very recently become
secretive and proprietary. This happened when voting systems, which
should be considered part of the "public commons" were turned over to
private companies. These companies now assert that the process
underlying the vote must be held secret from the voters.
- No voter, no citizens group, not even any academic group of experts
is allowed to examine a voting machine.
- Likewise, citizens, academics and voters are not allowed to examine
the software that tells the computer how to count and tally the votes.
- In addition, the process of voter registration is now going to
private, proprietary and secret software.
2. Ownership: When a system that belongs to the public becomes
secret, it becomes doubly important to make sure we can completely
trust those who run it. Because voting systems have recently become
proprietary secrets, we began to ask whether we can trust those who
run these companies.
- Voting machine companies are not required to tell us who owns them.
- Several voting machine companies have been as secretive about
ownership as they are about their voting systems.
- Two of the top six firms have been foreign-owned: Election.com,
owned by the Saudis until an acquisition by Accenture a few weeks
ago, and Sequoia, now owned by DeLaRue (Great Britain) formerly owned
by Jefferson Smurfit (Ireland).
- Three of the top six firms have owners and/or directors who
represent vested interests:
--- Election Systems & Software, the largest company. Main owner is a
company owned by Senator Chuck Hagel's campaign finance director,
Michael McCarthy. Hagel has owned shares in both the voting company
itself and in the parent company run by his campaign finance
director, and Hagel was the CEO and Chairman of the voting machine
company while it built the machines that counted his votes.
--- Diebold, the second largest voting machine company. CEO is Wally
O'Dell, who recently visited George W. Bush at his Crawford ranch
along with an elite group of Bush supporters called the "Rangers"
(formerly called the "Pioneers") where they set strategy on how to
help him win the next election. Days later, he penned a letter to
Ohio Republicans promising to help "deliver the votes" for Bush.
O'Dell sponsored a $600,000 fund raiser for Dick Cheney in July.
Diebold director W.H. Timken is also a Bush Pioneer/Ranger
--- VoteHere, the company striving to get its cryptography software
into all the other companies' machines (already has a contract with
Sequoia), has as its Chairman a close Cheney supporter and member of
the Defense Policy Board, Admiral Bill Owens. The SAIC,
an "independent" firm doing an evaluation of Diebold security for the
states of Maryland and Ohio, has Owens as it's Vice Chairman. Former
CIA director Robert Gates, who heads the George Bush School of
Business, is also a director.
- Voting companies also have a somewhat incestuous group of key
players -- Todd Urosevich and Bob Urosevich founded ES&S, but Todd
now is an executive with ES&S while Bob is president of Diebold
Election Systems. Sequoia and ES&S share software and optical scan
3. Disabling the safeguards: Voting systems have always had people
trying to rig them, with varying degrees of success. Here is what has
- The scale of potential vote-rigging has suddenly grown much bigger:
Whereas it used to be that one had to run around bribing someone to
shave the wheel on each lever machine, or collect up ballot boxes,
stuff them in a trunk and do something dastardly, nowadays a
programmer can, essentially invisibly, create a back door into the
vote system for millions of votes at once. Whereas vote-rigging has
always required physical access before, modems and wireless
communications devices now open up possibilities for remote vote
rigging that no one can observe.
- The audit trail is being taken away: An audit is simply the act of
comparing two independent data sets that are supposed to match.
Probably the most important understory to the voting issue right now
is this: The voting industry is spending literally millions of
dollars, and going through amazing feats of contorted logic that can
best be described as marketing gymnastics, to convince us that we
should discontinue proper auditing. The key words here are
INDEPENDENT sources of data which should be compared. Instead, they
want us to eliminate the ballot which you verify, and trust the
secret system sold to us by manufacturers, without the ability to
audit it using any independent means.
Even with the optical scan machines, which retain a paper ballot,
states are now passing laws to prevent us from looking at the paper
ballot to use it for a proper audit.
- Methods of access are changing: One key to election security is to
reduce physical access to the votes. We've done this in various ways
before; the typical attack point was always in the transfer of the
votes from polling places to the county office. For this reason, the
most secure paper ballot systems, in places like Canada, France, and
Germany, require counting right there at the polling place. That also
gives another security function: the "many eyes" method of security.
Computer technology can allow people to gain access using remote
methods. Right now, you are reading this on the Internet. You have
remote access to this forum. Imagine if the wrong people can gain
remote access to view the votes as they come in. It would be much
worse, if remote access allows them to write data into the vote
- Programmer access: One thing we've never had until we got
electronic vote-counting (which includes touch screens and optical
scan machines, and punch card tabulation as well), is software
programming errors. A lever machine can be tampered with, but you
don't have any software programming errors with it. Incorrect
software programming has now been identified in at least 112
elections, often flipping the race to the wrong candidate, even when
the election was not close.
No one knows how many elections have actually been misprogrammed, and
as we remove the paper ballots, no one will ever know. We do know
that incorrect programming producing errors as high as 25 percent is
not uncommon, and software programming errors have been documented as
high as 100 percent, and in one small Iowa county, a single machine
miscounted by 3 million votes.
Incorrect software programming can take two forms: Accidental or
deliberate. Either one takes away our right to have our vote counted
as we cast it.
4. Secret certification and testing, which gives a passing grade to
flaws -- The whole reason we are supposed to accept secret software
and secret ownership is that, we're told, these systems go through
extensive and rigorous certification and testing. However, this turns
out not to be the case.
First of all, the certification officials refuse to say what tests
they do, even when sent official questions by the California Task
Force on Electronic Voting, which includes Dr. David Dill and other
experts. We are told we cannot ask them any questions, and all
questions must be asked of R. Doug Lewis.
Second, this person named R. Doug Lewis, who is unelected (no one
quite knows what his credentials are or who hired him) -- well, he
refuses to answer questions too.
Third, the testing that supposedly takes place at the state level
quickly falls apart. It turns out that the states generally do not
look at the secret programs at all; they simply ask some routine
questions ("Can you vote more than once? How hard is it to set up?")
and the states do a "Logic & Accuracy test" in which they set the
machine to "test" mode, put in some test ballots, and if it counts
right, they call it good. This will not detect fraud, and has proven
to miss huge software programming errors quite often, but everybody
feels good when they say "we do an L&A test and you, too, can watch."
- - - -
All other issues relating to the 2004 elections wither if the votes
cast are not fairly and accurately counted.
Sign up for the October 8 Election Reform Meet-Up and vote for the
location at: http://electionreform.meetup.com/
If you cannot or prefer not to register with Meet-Up.com you can
contact me to RSVP and for the chosen location.